Innocent Choga : Fitness
The hot weather has been with us for a while and it has been predicted that it will remain so for some time. There is need to exercise according to the weather. There are advantages and disadvantages of exercising in warm temperatures. In this article I will discuss the benefits of sweating through exercise as well as through the use of other heat producing activities like the sauna and steam room.I often hear people say they are lucky because they hardly break a sweat. I used to admire such individuals because I perspire a lot despite the fact that I exercise regularly. We all dread perspiration because socially it makes us feel uncomfortable and it makes those we deal with despise our presence because of the odour it produces and emits.
But sweating is said to be healthy. It signals an efficient body system that reacts accordingly to high temperatures. Sweating is the body’s natural way of regulating internal temperature and cooling off so that our body cells maintain the normal temperature.
Breaking a sweat during and after exercise has been credited with immense benefits. Of late, health experts are talking of the healing and positive health effects of the sauna, steam rooms and other heat producing activities, exercise included of course.
Such activities like sitting in the sauna help us to relax as they sooth the muscles after a workout, thereby relaxing the body and the mind. Adding eucalyptus oil to the sauna water produces humid heat that has a wonderful effect on our cardio respiratory system.
Sweating has been said to increase the rate of our metabolism. When the body heats up and produces sweat, there is work involved. When we sweat our heart’s rate of working increases forcing us breathe faster thereby affecting our cardiovascular and respiratory systems. This means that body system is working to restore our body to the normal temperature. The calories burnt in the sauna are not enough to allow us to solely rely on the sauna to lose fat.
The high temperature in the sauna is said to expand the blood vessels allowing blood to flow without resistance or with low resistance, thereby temporarily lowering the heart’s pulse rate and temporarily reducing blood pressure.
This is one activity though, that strictly requires the permission of the doctor, because it can have fatal consequences especially to those who have high blood pressure.
The high temperatures increase blood circulation in the body. This improved blood circulation helps distribute nutrients evenly throughout the body. High temperatures in the sauna warm up the body, causing it to produce white blood cells thereby strengthening the immune system
Health experts also say, sweating assists in or save the liver and the kidney from the role of removing toxins in the body. Other people disapprove of the notion that we sweat out toxins.
They say the role of removing toxins belongs to the liver and kidneys alone. But there is no doubt that we lose electrolytes for how can one explain the salty taste of sweat and good feeling after sweating and showering?
In warm temperatures we do not have to go through too much warm up before exercising as the high temperature warms up the muscles. I think regularly using the sauna can assist in climate acclimatisation to athletes preparing for tournaments to be held in hot and humid areas, although it is best to practice in real conditions.
The opening of clogged pores assists in cleansing the skin making the sauna a handy tool for those with skin problems. There is no doubt that the sauna improves the skin texture.
This effect is said to be good for healing wounds and masking scars and wrinkles.
There is a belief that going into the sauna relieves and ultimately heals flue and colds. Whilst research has indicated that the sauna can help speed up recovery, I also think it is one way of spreading these infections to others when one uses public saunas and steam rooms.
They say some germs thrive in warm temperatures. So I personally think those affected should stay out for the benefit of others. The sauna is also said to alleviate the effects of arthritis and asthma. Its rejuvenation properties have been said to be of assistance to those who suffer from chronic fatigue as well.
However, there are two sides to every coin. Too much of everything is not good for anyone .Too much sweating through exercise and excessive use of the sauna will leave one feeling weak and lethargic.
There is a danger of losing too much electrolytes along with water in heavy sweating. Electrolytes are ionised salts in the blood; these fluids contain sodium, potassium and chlorine. Electrolyte drinks that we take to replace lost nutrients might not have the ideal ratio of electrolytes required.
In this case certain functions related to metabolism as well as transmission of signals in the nervous system can be impaired.
Participating in vigorous physical activity produces heavy sweating, and since evaporation of sweat on the skin is the body’s cooling mechanism.
When there is a combination of high temperatures and high humidity; this cooling process is seriously hindered.
When humidity is one hundred percent the air is completely saturated with water vapour and evaporation of liquid from the skin into the air is impossible.
In humid conditions the sweat beads just roll off the skin. As a result our bodies heat up and we sweat a lot and this negatively affects our performance.
When the air is dry evaporation of water from the skin is rapid and body temperature is more easily regulated.
Thus in humid conditions weather we have to be careful not to get into a state of dehydration because dehydration can cause heat exhaustion. We have to continuously drink a lot of fluids.
It is also advised not to use the sauna or engage in exercise after taking intoxicants. These affect our judgment therefore we may not be able to tell when enough is enough and alcohol is a diuretic and this will cause further serious dehydration.
I think it is also beneficial to exercise the sweat glands. Aerobic activities like running are good sweat producing activities because one sweats naturally. Weight training does not make us sweat unless it we are doing rapid timed sets of light weights in a circuit. Since we want to lift as much as we can, we take rests and we do not generate sweat. Also when we use the sauna we look depleted because of the water and the electrolytes we lose. This is the reason why most body-builders shun the sauna. They do not want to lose their “full” appearance.
Through experience, I have observed that it takes seven days to return to the normal body-builder’s fullness.
Way back, body builders and boxers and other athletes who compete in weight divisions would wear sweat suits so that they sweat more to lose water, make their skin thin or to lose weight so that they qualify for a lighter division.
This has been said to be dangerous it is tantamount to suffocating the skin but at the same time creating conditions that make it necessary for the skin to breathe and release sweat so that it cools off to normal temperature. Because the sweat cannot be evaporated to cool the body, the body continues to be hot. Some athletes use banned and dangerous diuretics for the same purpose.
Finland has been strongly associated with the culture of sauna use since time immemorial. It is said the Finns would alternate the hot sauna and ice cold water; frequently jumping into ice cold water after spending some time in the hot sauna.
They say that alternating between the two extreme temperatures naturally improves one’s immune system. But now the experts warn that immediately alternating the temperatures can stress the heart.
I am personally an advocate of the sauna, and I know a lot of people who will have a gym workout and will never go home without using the sauna. Sweating just makes us feel good.
Email: [email protected] Innocent Choga is a six time National Bodybuilding Champion with international experience. He is studying for a science degree in Physical Education and Sport.